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Teens: Supporting Friends Who
May Be Suicidal

The alarming rise in teen suicide rates has prompted a critical examination of the factors contributing to this distressing phenomenon. Adolescence, marked by myriad physical, emotional, and social changes, can be an exceptionally challenging. This while balancing friends, academics, family, and a social life can be daunting. Today's teenagers navigate a complex landscape filled with academic pressures, social expectations, and the ever-present influence of social media. The prevalence of teen suicide raises profound concerns about the mental health and well-being of our youth. Understanding the intricacies of this issue is crucial for fostering effective prevention strategies and creating a support system that addresses the unique challenges faced by teenagers in their journey toward adulthood.

A big portion of supporting and helping teens is making sure that we are educated on how to actually support a teenager and what we would do if a friend is suicidal. If you have a teen friend who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's essential to take their feelings seriously and offer support. Here are steps you can take to help them:

1. Take it Seriously: Take any talk of suicide seriously. Even if you're unsure of the severity, it's crucial to address it. Even if a friend may have joked in the past or wasn't serious, always take them seriously. Never assume they are just saying it or won't actually do anything.

2. Listen and Be Non-Judgmental: Create a safe space for your friend to express their feelings without judgment. Let them know you are there to listen and support them. Try to avoid giving advice or trying to hard to relate to how they are feeling. Often times, this may come across as watering down their feelings and how severe they may be. Focus on listening and making sure they know you are here to support them.

3. Ask Directly About Suicide: Don't be afraid to ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. This allows for open communication and may help your friend feel less isolated. Asking about suicide won't make someone attempt suicide or make them think about it if they weren't already.

4. Encourage Professional Help: Urge your friend to seek professional help from a counselor, therapist, or mental health professional. Offer to help them find resources and provide emotional support throughout the process. School is always a good place to start. Guidance counselors, school social workers, and teachers are there to support you and your friend and they can help make sure your friend is safe.

5. Involve Trusted Adults: If your friend is unwilling or unable to seek help on their own, involve a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, school counselor, or another responsible authority figure.

6. Remove Access to Means: If there is an immediate or emergency risk, work with others (adults) to remove access to potentially harmful means, such as medications or firearms.

7. Stay Connected: Maintain regular contact with your friend. Let them know you care and are there for them, even if it's just to chat or spend time together.

8. Encourage Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Encourage your friend to engage in healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, creative activities, or mindfulness, to manage stress and emotions.

9. Stay Calm in Crisis Situations: If your friend is in immediate danger, stay calm and call emergency services right away. Your priority is ensuring their safety.

10. Educate Yourself: Educate yourself about suicide prevention and mental health issues to better understand what your friend is going through and how to provide effective support. The One Life Project's Center For Education and Research is a great tool.

11. Follow Up: Continue to follow up with your friend regularly. Building a strong support system is an ongoing process.

12. Seek Support for Yourself: Supporting a friend in crisis can be emotionally challenging and very draining. Make sure to seek support for yourself, whether through friends, family, or a mental health professional.

Remember, you are not responsible for solving your friend's problems alone. Encourage them to seek professional help and involve trusted adults. In emergencies, always prioritize their safety by seeking immediate assistance. Suicidal thoughts are serious, and professional intervention is crucial for providing the help and support your friend needs.

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